During World War II, small compasses saved 27 sailors 300 miles off the coast of North Carolina. The SS Alcoa Guide was fired upon and sunk by a German submarine. The crew lowered compass-equipped lifeboats into the water and used the compasses to guide them toward shore. They were all rescued 3 days later. The psalmist tells us that God’s Word is a trustworthy “compass” or “lamp”. In that day, the flickering light of an olive oil lamp was only bright enough to show a traveler their next step. God’s Word is our lamp or compass lighting and directing our pathway to God (Psalm 119:105). God provides his trustworthy Word and Holy Spirit as our compass to lead us into deeper fellowship with Him.
Today is the third most holy day of the Christian faith. Alongside of Easter and Christmas, Pentecost reminds us of the beginning of the church of Jesus Christ. The presence of the Holy Spirit is “unleashed” upon that church and all believers in such a powerful way that nothing remains the same – it is a type of re-creation day and we are still a part of the re-creating moment that began 2,000+ years ago! Pentecost is perhaps a day of more questions than answers that we are still asking 2,000 years later.
What happened in Jerusalem was the second entrance of Holy God in humanity’s day-to-day life. Jesus came quietly – almost in a stealthy way in God’s plan. Only the shepherds were told – the lowliest of society. Jesus’ early life was lived in obscurity until the day he began his ministry and was baptized by John – then, through his ministry, crucifixion and resurrection, the world was turned upside down! 40 days later he ascended with the promise of a counselor that he would send to bring power and strength and divine presence to the disciples and all believers.
The day the Holy Spirit arrived was not quiet, stealthy or even nonchalant! It was the exact opposite. It was loud, it was shocking and spooky and it was, literally, in your face! There was no missing the fact that something had just happened. God had done something new, important and big and the church has been trying to figure that day – and the Holy Spirit out ever since!
Yet, what we know is that 1) Jesus’ promise of a new counsellor to be with us came true! 2) the presence, power and person of God now works around us and within every believer. The Holy Spirit teaches us, inspires us, rebukes us, transforms and sanctifies us and surprises us – every day! Just as Jesus told Nicodemus on one dark evening that the wind blows and we can only feel it, we cannot tell where it came from or where it is going. The Holy Spirit is like that too. We do know where it came from, but there are times where we have no idea where it is going or where the Spirit will take us! The sovereignty of God will do the same.
Do you remember the story of Joseph in Genesis? His was an incredible up and down journey of faith, yet he sums it all up with what many call the Genesis 50:20 rule: what you meant for evil – God used for good!
What do you believe about God and why? How do we get to our own personal understanding of God? What is our faith structure built upon? These are some of the questions I believe we must all wrestle with at times regarding our own understanding of God, our faith and our relationship with God. That is why we will spend the next four weeks building – or strengthening our foundation of faith. Let’s discover what makes up our faith foundation! We will look specifically at God’s mercy, faithfulness and holiness. Today we begin with God’s sovereignty. The God of supreme power and authority in and over all things.
I believe that each of us have – or will, come face-to-face with events that will challenge our faith. Most all of us have faced these storms of life that threaten to destroy our personal “house of faith”. What we believe and why we believe are vital to the strength and vitality – the actual core of our faith.
I am convinced that our belief system is based on two things: 1) Things we know – (head); 2) Things we experience – (heart). Our faith life is held together and is in constant tension between these two things: head & heart.
In Romans, Paul puts forth his treatise on grace and how God has acted to draw us back. By Chapter 11, Paul deals with the ultimate question in his own heart: What about the Jews? His conclusion is that they will one day be restored – after the opportunity for the Gentiles has been completed.
The result is one of the most beautiful doxologies (a short song or statement of praise to God) in the Bible. Paul’s head and Paul’s heart meet over God’s ultimate design of things. God’s sovereignty means that we are worshipping the only One: 1) who does not move in His plan; 2) who does not move in His faithfulness; 3) who does not move in His promises…regardless of what we see around us.
When I look at this sanctuary, I don’t see the 24” of gravel that supports the concrete floor. I don’t see the concrete foundation supporting the walls. I can’t see the roof trusses that support the weight of the roof. All I can see are painted walls and ceilings and carpeted floors. All I can see are the outside parts of a structure.
Yet, I know that what I cannot see – that stuff hidden inside of walls and in the attic and below the floor – all of that hidden strength is standing firm supporting and protecting this building – and all of us who are inside of it!
Paul’s words remind us that the foundation of our faith is still good. Just like a radio wave cannot be seen, but upon hearing the radio is the proof that it is there, God cannot be seen, but his presence can absolutely be felt.
Maybe Pentecost is a good time to ponder when life doesn’t make sense that perhaps our question shouldn’t be “WHY” but rather “HOW”. How God will you use this situation to bring about good? How will God help us to worship God in the midst of the mess? How can 1/we be God’s hands, feet and heart to others who suffer? How will God reveal, and remind us of, His Sovereignty in all things?